Friday, December 25, 2009

What Love Looks Like

In case you were wondering, this is what love looks like.

If you are painting your daughter’s nails and she asks if she can paint yours, what can you say? That you’re afraid? That your manhood is too insecure?

Pfft! No! You damned well let her paint them. And you let her take a picture. Because that, my friends, is true love.

(And then you bloody well sneak into the bathroom quietly remove it when she isn’t looking)

Pax Moiyana

So many firsts in the past several months: Moiya moved into “big kid school” for the first time, we lost our first tooth (first two, actually), and we got our first adult tooth – of which we are very proud.

And somewhere along the way, The Troubles that I’ve written about elsewhere in this blog – the great screaming rages in response to the upheavals in her young life – seem to have ended almost as suddenly as they began two years ago.

There are still isolated events; the night before Moiya transitions from one household to another she will usually push and push and push until we finally have to come down hard on her (because, I suppose, she can then get mad at us – and mad is a much easier emotion to process). But these flare-ups compare to The Troubles in much the same way that a firecracker compares to a propane tank explosion.

Astonishingly, the thing that seems to have started the process was a simple, wind-up kitchen timer from Wal-Mart.

I got tired of the constant fighting with Moiya over when we had to stop playing, when she had to get out of the tub, when it was time to stop reading and get into bed, etc. So I went out and bought a timer and set it for 30 minutes. “When that dings” I said “We’re done.” It’s very old-school, makes a nice tick-tock noise, and has a real bell (rather than some damned electronic beep).

And it worked. From the very first time.

Moiya likes that she can see how much time she has left, and immediately started asking if she could set the timer herself. It isn’t cut and dried: If Moiya’s been bad at school, she loses five minutes off the 30. If Mommy calls, I stop the clock till they’re done talking. But it’s dead simple and for whatever reason, it works. Hell, at this point if I forget to set the timer, Moiya reminds me. And all for under two dollars.

We’ve also made accommodations in bedding. One night Moiya asked if she could just sleep on the floor. I agreed, thinking it would eventually turn into another ploy to start a screaming row. So we prepared the little foam Winnie the Pooh sofa that sits on the floor next to her bed. We arranged her pillow (with newly purchased Disney Princess pillowcase) and cover the couch with her new Disney Princess blanket (softest side up, princesses facing out, edges tucked under). And lastly I covered Moiya with the blue blanket we borrowed from her Nonny (which also had to face correctly, though it has no discernable pattern) tucked securely under her feet at the end – with her Disney Princess swim towel over her toes.

With her thus bedded, I lay on the floor next to her, holding hands and playing rhyming word games in the dark till she got sleepy.

Then she went to sleep.

Just like that. No psychotic rages. No screaming. No kicking and throwing. She just went to sleep. And she did it again the next night. And the next.

And so The Troubles passed and a period of relative calm has begun. It isn’t absolute. There were two weekends in November when she decided to conduct a five-year-old’s version of a scorched earth campaign. Contrary to her Mom’s belief that Moiya would soon come to think of her two homes as “natural”, she has not. “I remember our old house Daddy,” she said one day with a glare. “I remember us together. I remember everything.

And for better or worse, I’m the one who’s going to be the outlet for her sadness. Moiya even told her Mom one day that she was mad at her so she beat up on me. Go figure. (And bless her Mom for telling me.. it helps somehow).

But it isn’t every day like it used to be. And for that I am profoundly grateful.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Desk Love

As I’ve posted before, I’ve had to learn that expressions of love often come in curious disguises. I got Moiya a little desk for Christmas a few years back, and to my enormous gratification, she uses it constantly. It can stand as an easel or lay flat as a desk and when she isn’t coloring on it she’s using the whiteboard surface to practice her letters. It has it’s own little three-legged stool and I put it in a nice, uncluttered corner of her room.

But over time, I found that Moiya’s desk tended to migrate to my room. I’d get up in the night, trip over it, and move it back to her room. I’d try to vacuum (the litter box is in my room – I have to vacuum often) and it would be in my way until I moved it back to her room. More than once I’ve crashed into it whilst carrying a full basket of laundry and bellowed (from the floor) for my daughter to get her !@!#! desk and put it in her room.

Why” I would ask in exasperation “is it always in MY room?

And then I noticed that it wasn’t just in my room. It was next to the desk in my room. Next to the old roll-top desk which had been my Dad’s and where I do most of my work. Next to the desk at which I am presently writing this. Moiya was placing her desk next to my desk, and her chair next to my chair.

And when we sit at our respective desks, we sit together, side by side.

And so that has become the official spot for Moiya’s desk. When I check my email or am sending out job applications, she sits next to me and draws or practices her letters. Sometimes we chat while we work. It's nice.

I can’t imagine how I ever thought it was in the way.

Minutiae

    Short memories, apropos of nothing. I record them here so that I do not forget:

  • As we looked at a book on the Nativity, Moiya began telling me the story of Baby Jesus and His mama, Maryhadalittlelamb.

  • Moiya retrieves the quarter deposit when we return our cart at the local grocery (some of the locals do this as a stop loss measure). One day when she got in the car I asked for my quarter back, but was told that she was busy with her seatbelt. After her belt was fastened, I asked for my quarter again, and was met with another excuse.. and another... and another.

    Finally I told my daughter that if I didn’t get my quarter back, we weren’t going anywhere. Moiya handed me my quarter, put her hands on her hips and demanded “What sort of man ARE you?” I have no idea where that came from, but it cracked me up. So it turns up with some frequency now as her shorthand token of humorous disgust.

  • Moiya frequently, with the mangled logic of the young, refers to her habits as “Like I always do sometimes.”

Magicadabra

"Magicadabra" is our magic word.

Moiya used to bring me her child-proof bottle of children's vitamins after having failed to open them herself. I would wave my hands, mutter, tap the lid three times and say "ABRACADABRA!" Then I'd open the bottle with a flourish.

It took Moiya's awhile to figure out the trick, but eventually she came to me, proud as punch and after suitable theatrics, announced "MAGICADABRA!" and opened the bottle. We try magic card tricks as well, though I've never been good at them, with or without Magicadabra. And recently, my con artist daughter has begun trying to convince her old Dad that she has psychic powers.

“Daddy?”

“Uh-huh?”

“I can read your mind!”

We were whipping down the highway on the way back from a day of kindergarten for Moiya and fruitless job searching for me. I was not entirely living in the moment, having my mind on “serious matters”

“Ok,” I said with a sigh. “I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 10. If you can read my mind, tell me what number I’m thinking of.”

“Ok,” said Moiya. “Are you thinking real hard?” I assured her that I was and she screwed up her little face in concentration.

“Is it two?”

“No”

(pause) “Is it seven?”

“No.”

“Is it three?”

“Nope” I said, trying not to laugh.

“Is it one?”

“No.” By now we’re both giggling.”

“Is it six?”

“Oh! Let me think. Hmmmmm.. No.”

“Eight?”

“No”

“Nine?”

“No.”

“Four?”

“Yes, it’s four.”

AHA!!” Moiya shouted. “I TOLD YOU I COULD READ YOUR MIND!!
And we both fell about laughing.

I love my kid.

Silent Night

I don’t mind sharing Moiya. My ex and I try to be considerate of one another and of Moiya and I’m thankful to have that in a co-parent. If we can’t give Moiya an unbroken home we can certainly give her a life without friction between the people who love her. A girl needs her Mama, and I don’t begrudge a second of the time Moiya spends there.

But it does get creepy quiet around here, after the giggles and the jumping and the running have gone.

The thing that gets to me most are Moiya’s “babies’, scattered here and there throughout every room in the apartment, all carefully and lovingly tucked in and waiting silently for their little Momma to return. It’s a constant reminder of what’s missing. I should put the bloody things away. But somehow I just don’t have the heart to move them.

Holidays are the worst. I’ve surrendered my claim on holidays in my daughter’s interest. Holidays are about family. Moiya’s Mom has lots of family and mostly nearby. I have very little, and all far away. So holidays are spent with Mommy’s family where - as it should be - there is noise and life and lots of little cousins to play with.

But it’s... odd... here, especially now at Christmas. It’s been three years since I got to see my daughter’s anticipation of the arrival of Santa on Christmas Eve night. And I miss that. And the knowledge that I’m unlikely to see it again stings.

Okay. Enough self pity. I think I’ll go to bed now. Tomorrow is another day.

The Return of the Flying Mermaid

I apologize to the simply tens of… tens… of people who read this blog for not having posted in such a long time. Life got a little interesting.

Years of poor management left my employer more or less defunct and me out of a job. (It’s simply bundles of fun, looking for work at 56 years of age in the middle of a massive recession when all the HR people consider you washed up at 30). And Moiya started school - which was almost certainly more stressful on her Mother and I than it was on her. The long and the short of it is that I fell behind.

But as I always do, I jotted the occasional text note to myself as things occurred and now that I’m back I’ll use them to gradually fill in the blanks. (At least I will for those notes whose meaning I can devine. A few of them I have no idea what I meant). Thus chronology for the next several posts will have little of no actual bearing on when the events occurred. “Sometime between August and December 2009” will just have to do.